INTERNET SOURCE: http://georgiatoday.ge/news/4708/Radical-Nationalist-Groups,-Georgian-Orthodox-Priests-Protest-Papal-Visit
Radical Nationalist Groups, Georgian Orthodox Priests Protest Papal Visit
TBILISI – A group of Georgian Orthodox ultranationalists and priests held a rally Wednesday (21 September 2016) afternoon outside the Vatican Embassy in Tbilisi to protest the upcoming visit of Pope Francis.
The group claimed the papal visit is an affront to the purity of the Georgian Orthodox and an insult to the Georgian people as the Holy See is anathema to the beliefs of Orthodox Christianity.
One of the organizers of the rally, Avtandil Ungiadze, claimed the protesters were there to “preserve the reputation of the true church”, and vowed to bar Pope Francis from entering the 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in nearby Mtskheta.
The cathedral, whose name translates in English as “the Cathedral of the Living Pillar”, is considered the Georgian Orthodox Church’s most venerated place of worship. Orthodox believers claim the church houses Christ’s Mantle – the tunic reportedly worn by Christ at the time of his crucifixion.
The organizers of the rally claim that the Pope’s visit to the cathedral and Mtskheta – the site of Georgia’s 4th century conversion to Christianity – amounts to “a spiritual aggression by the Vatican and an attempt by the Catholic Church to colonize Georgia.”
Pope Francis plans to attend a mass at the Cathedral and meet with the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, during his three-day visit to the small South Caucasus nation that begins September 30.
The protestors believe a papal visit to the birthplace of Georgian Orthodoxy amounts to an attempt by the Vatican to proselytize to Georgia’s estimated 3 million Eastern Orthodox believers.
Holding signs reading, "Pope Arch-heretic. You are not welcome in Georgia" and "Stay far away from Georgia Antichrist," Ungiadze and other protestors refused to comment of whether the rally had been sanctioned by the Georgian Patriarchate.
Local news outlet Netgazeti later reported that the Patriarchate has denied any involvement with the protestors, but refused to reprimand the priests who attended the rally.
The rally was the latest in a series of provocative acts that brought together ultranationalists and members of the Georgian Orthodox Church. In 2013, the two took part in a violent crackdown on a Gay Pride rally in Tbilisi that left dozens severely injured.
In May, Georgian nationalists led by the eccentric Levan Vasadze – whom news platform Coda Story described as “a dagger-sporting homophobic knight dressed in Georgian national attire” – members of the Georgian church and far-right Christian extremists from Russia and the US gathered in Tbilisi for the World Congress of Families.
The gathering echoed calls by Russia’s powerful Patriarch Kirill, who has claimed women’s and LBGT rights are “antithetical to Orthodox beliefs and traditional family values”.
Georgia’s Orthodox Church has fostered close ties with the Moscow Patriarchate over the last decade. Earlier this year, it joined Russia and Serbia in boycotting a Holy Synod – the first in more than 1,000 years – called by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, as the three churches objected to several modest modernization initiatives that were to be discussed by the various churches that make up Eastern Orthodoxy.
The Western and Eastern branches of Christianity formally split into two competing branches in 1054 over political and theological differences.
The ecclesiastical differences and theological disputes between the Greek East and Latin West pre-dated the formal rupture that occurred in the mid-11th century. Chief among these were issues concerning the concept of the Holy Spirit, whether to use unleavened bread in the Eucharist, Rome's claim to universal jurisdiction over the Christian world and the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople.
The main doctrinal split can be found in Roman Catholicism's (and later Protestantism) belief in the equal duality of Christ's divine and human nature, while Orthodoxy mainly focuses on Christ’s mystic divinity in the form of a man.
Relations between the two branches have been fraught over the centuries, though a rapprochement has been on-going since Constantinople Patriarch Bartolomew and former Pope John Paul II first met in the early 2000s.
Despite claims by the protestors outside the Vatican Embassy that Georgia is a strictly Orthodox nation, recent statistics say Orthodox Christians make up 86 per cent of Georgia's population, while Roman Catholics - who have been in Georgia since the 14th century - make up only 1 per cent.
The country’s second largest religious group, Muslims, account for roughly 13 per cent of the overall population.
Georgia’s 2,500-year-old Jewish population has dwindled in the last 20 years due to high levels of emigration to Israel.
By Nicholas Waller
22 September 2016 13:36
INTERNET SOURCE: http://www.pravmir.com/georgias-orthodox-parents-protest-pope-visit/
Georgia’s “Orthodox Parents” protest against pope visit
admin | 22 September 2016
Tbilisi, September 21, Interfax - Several dozen representatives of the public organization Union of Orthodox Parents on Wednesday conducted a protest near the building of the Vatican embassy in Tbilisi against the visit to Georgia of Pope Francis in late September.
The protesters told reporters that “Orthodox Georgians do not need the pope’s blessing.” They were holding posters protesting the pope’s visit. One of them said “The Vatican is a spiritual aggressor!”
Meanwhile, Guiseppe Pasotto, bishop of the Catholic Church in Georgia, told reporters it is unclear to him why anyone should protest the pope’s visit to Georgia.
“The pope is coming to Georgia as a peace messenger. Why should anyone be against that? As far as I know, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II of All Georgia is not against this visit,” Pasotto said.
During his visit, which will take place in the period between September 30 through October 2, the pope will meet in Tbilisi with Ilia II, representatives of various religious groups and top officials of Georgia and will conduct a mass in a stadium, he said.
Georgia: 'Vatican is a spiritual aggressor' - Orthodox Church faction decries Pope Francis' visitPublished on Oct 1, 2016Dozens of Georgian Orthodox Church believers took to the streets of Tbilisi, on Saturday, to protest against a solemn mass conducted by Pope Francis who is on official two-day visit to the country.
SOT, Protester (Russian): "We are protesting against proselytism which is being conducted by Pope [Francis]. Proselytism is prohibited in the whole world. And this is a real proselytism because we are aware that they have been distributing invitations in schools, universities, at work, homes for elderly people. And elderly people are afraid because they think if they don't go there, they would force them out. This is called violence and proselytism. We are against it. If Catholics want to pray, they are welcome, nobody disturbs them."
Video ID: 20161001-030
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INTERNET SOURCE: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/10/orthodox-church-snubs-pope-francis-georgia-161001161658569.html
Orthodox Church snubs Pope Francis in Georgia
Mass conducted in near-empty stadium in Tbilisi as local patriarchate declines to take part over "dogmatic differences".
Pope Francis has wrapped up a visit to Georgia with fresh gestures of friendship towards the Orthodox Church despite being snubbed by the local patriarchate.
Francis celebrated mass on Saturday in Tbilisi's Mikheil Meskhi Stadium, where fewer than 3,000 of the facility's 27,000 seats were filled.
"A mass by Pope Francis to a half-empty stadium shows just how much of a minority Catholics are in Georgia," said Al Jazeera's Robin Forestier-Walker, reporting from Tbilisi.
"More than 80 percent of the population is Georgian Orthodox Christian."
The Vatican had expected the Georgian Orthodox Church to send a delegation to the mass in Tbilisi, even though the patriarchate announced earlier this week that its clergy could not take part "due to dogmatic differences" dating back to the Middle Ages.
In the end, Greg Burke, the Vatican spokesman, confirmed that no Orthodox bishops showed up.
Closing mass, Francis strayed from a scripted speech, thanking ordinary Orthodox "faithful", rather than official church representatives, for attending the service.
Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili was also present.
"Dear brothers and sisters, let us take up this call: To not bury ourselves in what is going wrong around us or be saddened by the lack of harmony between us," Francis said.
Nationalist groups, supported by Orthodox priests, have staged several protests against Francis's visit, depicting him as an "Antichrist" and a "spiritual aggressor".
Some protesters at the event also accused Francis of seeking to convert Georgians to Catholicism.
"When the head of the Catholic Church says that we should seek forgiveness from gay people, this means that he goes against Christ," Father David, from Parents of Orthodoxy, told Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera's Forestier-Walker said: "For some, there can be no harmony unless you're Georgian, Orthodox and heterosexual.
"Homophobic, Islamophobic or xenophobic sentiments are not the exclusive preserve of radical or fringe groups in Georgia. They regularly find expression in the political and religious mainstream."
The conservative Georgian Orthodox church is tied to the Moscow patriarchate, and both have strained but improving relations with the Vatican, as part of slow-moving efforts to heal the 1,000-year-old Orthodox-Catholic rift.
Francis, seen as progressive on some issues, also used his Georgian visit to defend the indissolubility of marriage.
He said adultery is inspired by "the Devil" and urged anyone tempted to betray their spouse to "seek immediate help".
"We must do everything to save a marriage," said Francis, defining divorce as an affront to God that makes children suffer, and insisting that "three magic words" - excuse me, thank you and sorry - can relieve marital strife.
Francis also complained about a "world war to destroy marriage" waged with "gender theory", which the Vatican criticises for offering a more flexible interpretation of a person's gender identity.
Francis' trip is part of a three-day pilgrimage to the Caucasus area, which straddles Europe, Russia and the Middle East, focused on peace and religious tolerance.
Francis already toured the region in June when he visited Armenia.
The journey ends on Sunday in Azerbaijan, an oil-rich majority Muslim nation with an a Catholic minority that is even smaller than Georgia's, and a territorial dispute with Armenia over the province of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Georgian Orthodox protestors line the streets of Tbilisi on Pope Francis' arrival to Georgia, Sept. 30, 2016. Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA.
Georgia: Orthodox priests snub pope visitPublished on Oct 1, 2016Pope Francis is in Georgia to mend relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, who have been divided for almost 1,000 years.
But Orthodox priests have been protesting against his visit, claiming it is an affront to the purity of the Georgian Orthodox religion and people.
Religious and right-wing nationalists have been active in Georgia in advance of parliamentary elections next weekend.
Al Jazeera’s Robin Forestier-Walker reports from Tbilisi.
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